TV Review: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

Sherlock

S4, E0: ‘The Abominable Bride’

Sherlock goes deep. Deep up its own rear end.

Grade: I. For ‘Is This Silly Enough For You Yet?’

***SPOILERS FOR ALL EPISODES OF SHERLOCK UP TO THE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL.*****

Well, Sherlock’s back. And of course it was inevitable that a modern-day Sherlock Holmes would….at some point scuttle into the 19th century. While promising to explain how Moriarty came back from the dead. But, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know that this show doesn’t do answers. What this show does is coats. Coats and preening, oblivious sexism. And also coats.

‘That is the version of you I present to the public.’

So last episode, I said that there was no thematic tissue. This episode, that’s probably not true: there’s the kernel of an interesting idea here about roles and perceptions. Sherlock sees himself as an addict in perpetual need of a fix (which….he is. Cocktails of drugs on the plane, seven per cent solutions in his Victorian London Mind Palace), and he thinks that whatever virtue is in him comes from continually (well, occasionally) striving to live up to the man John believes he could be. The man John writes about in his blog – or rather his illustrated stories in The Strand magazine in Sherlock’s Mind Palace Victoriana – while he makes himself out to be a wide-eyed, tangle-footed stumblebum. John even rocks the full Nigel Bruce moustache in this episode. I lived in continual dread that he’d find a bucket to stick both feet into.

Similarly, there’s an idea in the episode about how much use Sherlock actually has for romance or sex, and how much of that is his own mythology about himself. Which is all very fascinating to….someone, I suppose. But – as I have said before – I am resolutely indifferent to the state of Sherlock’s heart or goolies. I could not care less Whether Sherlock Does It. Or With What. Or To Whom. I resent the energy it has taken to type even this paragraph saying as much.

So I am actually reasonably tolerant of the device used to explore Sherlock’s mind. Yes, it’s all a bit Inception for People Who Think Christopher Nolan is Ingmar Berman. But it’s not badly executed, per se. Its only problem is: I don’t find Sherlock as fascinating as the show does. Or at least, I think Benzene Cumberoid beautifully suggests a watchful intelligence and unsentimentality that I find both interesting and refreshing. But the more the show wants to examine him, the less interesting Sherlock becomes to me. Because the show doesn’t seem to see an overwrought He Who Fights Monsters cliché that it doesn’t want to get drunk and impregnate. Look at Sherlock, OD’ing heartrendingly and photogenically. See the array of anxious faces around him. Watch as he stumbles to his feet and takes time out of his day to bite out an unforgiveable piece of churlishness. See him continually resuscitate Gnome Prince of Crime, Moriarty. Watch glumly as Moriarty fellates a gun. Cringe as you realise that the show means you to find this menacing instead of really fucking embarrassing. Shudder as you remember that this is all in Sherlock’s head. Shudder anew as you contemplate what other shoddy, threadbare furniture the Mind Palace may contain. Groan as you realise that every creaking, peeling Superhero/Supervillain Knockoff will be exhibited to you in future episodes, with the demented smugness of a naked emperor who insists that only the elect can see his clothes.

‘We will need a list.’

As to the rest: oy gevalt. Where to even – ? So yes, let’s make a list.

  • The one good thing about the Victorian setting was – I thought – that Molly Drooper wouldn’t be making an appearance. I should have known better. Here is the Gruff Mortuary Guy whom We Are Meant To Pretend Is Not Obviously Molly Hooper In Drag For Fully Five Minutes. Which is Five Minutes Too Many. Thankfully Watson puts us out of our misery.
  • Psssst, show? When people complain about your portrayal of female characters? The answer is not to give one of your female characters a Magic Powers Upgrade. Magic Powers which she uses to do the narrative equivalent of handkerchief embroidery. Around the edges. Not even the stuff in the damn handkerchief.
  • And you know what would also be good? To not look at a Mafia organisation carrying out assassinations based on personal vendettas, and go ‘SAY! THIS IS LIKE FEMINISM!’
  • While the music swells and rises.
  • And a man basically does all the talking.
  • And also the women are wearing KKK costumes.
  • Except in purple.
  • Because sure.
  • Oh, and Moriarty is dead, but he is also back. Stay tuned to find out how! (I am 99% sure that we will not find out how).
  • But also he is in Sherlock’s mind foreverandeverandeverandever. So any time we feel like ordering a Very Large Ham……

Deerstalking: Holmes canon nods

  • The Five Orange Pips gets a nod. Infuriatingly, its KKK villains get a nod too, in the form of the outfits the episode’s murderers wear.
  • ‘The Seven Per Cent Solution’ gets a nod too.
  • ‘Anything I have to say has already crossed your mind.’ ‘Then possibly my response has crossed yours.’, from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Last used in The Great Game.

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